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Panel to Focus on Washington’s Early Influence on USWNT

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1991 World Cup players to join coach Anson Dorrance for public forum Aug. 31 at The NINETY.

Mike Ryan and first U.S. Women’s National Team prior to 1985 inaugural match vs. Italy
Mike Ryan Family/Frank MacDonald Collection

Less than a month after returning from American women’s soccer biggest triumph to date, on Christmas Eve 1991 three Washington-based players, at average age 24 and seemingly approaching their peak as players, retired from the U.S. Women’s National Team. Why?

In 1985, Seattle’s Denise Bender was captain of the national team and Sharon McMurtry U.S. Soccer’s female player of the year. Yet the following year they were no longer part of the program. Why?

If one of Washington’s major universities had adopted women’s varsity soccer in the early 1980s, what effect would that have had on their trophy shelves and that of 22-time champion North Carolina?

These are among the questions I’d love to ask and on Aug. 31 may well hear the answers. That evening Washington State Legends of Soccer is hosting ‘From Washington to the World Cup,’ presented by Kaizen Financial Advisors. An illustrious panel will share stories of the formative first years of the USWNT, including a victory in the 1991 World Cup.

Tickets to the event, to be held at The NINETY, include food, beverages and tickets to the Husky Invitational the following day, Sept. 1, at the University of Washington. There will also be a free raffle for Reign FC tickets and swag.

While the panel will feature several past national team members from Washington, including 1991 World Cup squad members Amy Griffin (nee Allmann) and Shannon Cirovski (nee Higgins). Cirovski set-up both goals scored by fellow Washingtonian Michelle Akers in the 2-1 WC final victory over Norway. Joining them on the panel will be Anson Dorrance, head coach of those World Cup champions as well as North Carolina, which is playing in the Husky Invitational. Rounding out the panel are several other history-makers.

Long before Hope Solo stepped between the posts or Reign FC’s Megan Rapinoe won a Gold Boot, Washington’s soccer community supplied much of the initial thrust in starting the drive toward World Cup championships. The first USWNT coach was Seattle’s Mike Ryan. Eight of the first squad to represent the U.S. hailed from the Seattle area. Dorrance’s first Carolina championships featured All-Americans recruited from Washington.

No doubt, you will gain added insight to not only our state’s prominent role in the history of the women’s game, as well as the subject #equalpay. Capacity is limited. We hope you can join us.

Frank MacDonald is a Seattle soccer journalist and historian who serves as executive director of the non-profit organization Washington State Legends of Soccer.